The Fundamentals of Key Account Management

There are many activities required for successful key account management. Keeping them straight and completing them all can seem a bit overwhelming at times. But getting started or improving your abilities as a key account manager (KAM) is easier when you know the fundamentals.

These fundamentals include a foundational framework, so you never miss a detail and some important caveats to boost your success. These fundamentals accelerate your progress toward the coveted role of Trusted Advisor or Strategic Partner to your customers.

Foundational framework

Having a process sets you up for success as a key account manager. The one we’ve developed at Kapta is called our KAM Process. Not only does KAM stand for Key Account Management, in this case, it stands for Know, Act, Measure—the process to help you deeply understand your customers.


The first step, Know, involves gathering knowledge to get a solid background on your customer. It involves answering questions such as:

  • What do we know about the account?
  • What are the critical relationships?
  • What’s the background of this customer?
  • What have they bought from us?
  • How are things going?
  • What’s our strategy for the account?

This knowledge includes all the information and data you have about the customer. It gives you a sense of what the customer’s been doing, what they haven’t been doing, what they have bought, and what they are trying to accomplish.


Now that you have gathered knowledge about the customer, what actions can you take to help your customer succeed? Now that you know the customer’s background, the relationships, and their strategy, you are ready to build your account action plans and link your activities and tasks to things that your customer cares about.

The action plan is how you purposefully act in a way that helps your customer increase their chances of success. It’s about taking actions that are aligned with and designed to help customers attain their goals.


The last step in the KAM process is Measure. This step helps you know if you’re doing a good job and if the customer is getting the results that they want. It’s important to measure your effectiveness as a partner and gauge the results that your customer is getting. You may use KPIs within your business or other metrics to complete this step. Then it’s important to share your measurements with the customer to show them the progress you’ve helped them achieve and to identify necessary adjustments to your action plans.

The KAM Process is a loop or cycle that is repeated. It doesn’t start and end. Every time that you reengage with the customer, you go through another one of these cycles.

Benefits of the KAM Process

When you do the KAM Process correctly and consistently, you’ll receive a number of benefits:

  • Better alignment with your customers. Their goals and needs will match the services and activities you are performing to help them.
  • Better account visibility. You gain a better understanding and clearer results within customer accounts.
  • Better account plans. These growth plans are built into the KAM Process to keep you on track.
  • Detailed steps to guide your work. The KAM Process is designed to ensure you never miss a step that you can take to help your customers succeed.
  • Improved customer experience. Your customers’ experience working with you will be better because you’re more thoughtful, process-oriented, and consistent when engaging with customers.

How to boost KAM success

We’ve identified seven practices essential to key account management success. As you’re working through the KAM Process, keep these in mind to facilitate achieving trusted advisor or strategic partner status with your customers.

Be strategic – Being tactical by talking about deliverables and timelines of projects makes you look like just another vendor in the eyes of your client. Instead, you need to be more strategic by discussing high-level goals and plans with your clients.

Be proactive – Don’t be reactive by spending all your time in your inbox and putting out fires. When you do this, you aren’t as effective for your customers. Instead, you need to be proactive to fulfill the role desirable to your customers.

Be customer-centric – When you talk to your clients, the conversation needs to be about them, not about your business and how your company is meeting its goals. Make the conversation about their goals, their challenges, and the outcomes they are or will receive.

Build account plans – An account plan is a fantastic opportunity to take the time to thoughtfully put yourself in the shoes of your customer and identify the things you are going to do to help them be successful. It’s a huge mistake to fail to create account plans. It’s worth the effort to learn a tremendous amount about the customer, discover risks and opportunities, and set yourself up to deliver true success for the customer.

Use the right systems – Failure to use the right systems, means having customer data across multiple systems instead of one easy-to-access platform. This makes it hard to make sense of it all since there’s no single view of the customer for easy reference. It’s also difficult to understand things like:

  • Who the customer is
  • What their challenges and goals are
  • What we are doing for them
  • What results the customer has seen

So, using the right systems sets you up for success.

Report value to your customer – Taking the time to report value back to your customer helps you demonstrate that you understand what’s most important to them and how your product or service links back to those critical elements of value. Then you take the time to document progress toward customer goals.

Confirm everyone in the company understands the client – Since not everyone within your organization isn’t necessarily as familiar with each customer, it’s your job to be your client’s champion within your organization. This means you need to be an evangelist on behalf of your customer to make sure everyone in your organization understands your customers, their goals, how you’re helping them, what’s going well, and where it isn’t going well. This enables you to build the support that you need to execute your account plans.

Determine which of these areas you are falling short of and make the effort to adopt these characteristics or habits to elevate your key account management success.


When you adopt a foundational KAM framework or process your clients will stop seeing you only as a vendor. Then, incorporate the essential practices to elevate yourself to trusted advisor status. You’ll reduce account churn and have more customers for life.

Boost your success as a key account manager. Register for KAMGenius, the only online video course taught by KAM experts in easy-to-consume bite-sized videos full of actionable tips.

Senior Engagement Manager at Kapta
Jennifer is a Senior Engagement Manager at Kapta